It seems fair to expect any play titled Clutter to be about an eponymous Kansas family immortalized in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, but playwright Mark Saltzman’s interests lie in chronicling the lives of Homer and Langley Collyer, two Manhattan recluses who crammed their Harlem brownstone with 70 years’ worth of family possessions and collected junk. When authorities entered the home in 1947, its 136-ton inventory included 14 grand pianos, medical specimens, a Model-T Ford chassis and thousands of books. More shocking, they discovered that the bedridden Homer had recently died days after his caretaker brother was killed by a burglar booby trap he himself had rigged in the house, whose passages could only be navigated by tunnels bored through stacks of newspapers and debris.
In the debut production of Clutterat the Colony Theater, we meet the Collyers in 1919, as their father (Mark Christopher Tracy) walks out on his adult sons. Langley (Patrick Richwood) is a deluded pianist who practices all day dressed in a plum smoking jacket; Homer (Ed F. Martin), a maritime-law attorney, looks and sounds saner, only to reveal an equally bizarre — and fateful — sibling co-dependency.
There are obvious ways to present the Collyers’ tale: musical spectacle, Brechtian parable, “Rosebud” search, Freudian meditation on compulsive behavior, Marxist fable about accumulation. Saltzman chooses none of these because he’s not interested in exploring Homer and Langley too deeply. Instead, he introduces two other brothers, Reilly and Kevin Dolan (Jason Field and Seamus Dever), a pair of cops assigned to the Collyers’ neighborhood who carry on a lifelong rivalry — one aggravated by Kevin’s POW experiences during WWII.